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All about “Squid, Octopus and Cuttlefish”

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Health profile

The consumption of tentacle animals is less and less marginal. The most popular species are octopus (octopus), squid and cuttlefish. The octopus can be recognized by its large rounded head and its long tentacles. Squid and cuttlefish are characterized by their shorter tentacles than their long, tapered bodies. The squid (also called squid) is, however, smaller than the cuttlefish. It also has a central white bone (often found in bird cages), while the squid does not.

Among the cephalopods, the squid is the most commercially caught species. The cuttlefish comes second and the octopus third. Asians are the main consumers of these molluscs.

Squid, cuttlefish and octopus are characterized by a particularly low fat and high protein content. They are excellent sources of copper, selenium and vitamins B12, and contain many other essential nutrients for health.

Active ingredients and properties

Very few studies have been done to determine the health effects of eating cephalopods. In the 1990s, a small clinical study concluded that the consumption of seafood (including squid) had no significant effect on the blood lipid levels of healthy men 1 .

However, some studies show that there would be benefits in consuming fish and seafood. First, a study of more than 14,000 women showed that the more they consumed, the less their risk of colorectal cancer was high 2 . Another study, conducted among a population of Chinese men, showed that eating at least one meal of fish or seafood per week could reduce the risk of fatal myocardial infarction , compared to less consumption 3. At this time, it is unclear which specific compounds in fish and seafood may be associated with their beneficial effects. However, researchers believe that the presence of omega-3 fatty acids may have an important role to play.

Omega-3 fatty acids . Squid and octopus contain eicosapentaenoic acid ( EPA ) and docosahexaenoic acid ( DHA ), two fatty acids from the omega-3 family. These act as precursors of chemical messengers promoting good immune, circulatory and hormonal functioning. Several epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, mainly of marine origin, would have favorable effects on cardiovascular health and reduce mortality from cardiovascular disease 4 . These fatty acids act on several levels, in particular by reducing the tensionarterial 5 , blood triglycerides 6 and blood clots 7 , reducing the risk of atherosclerosis .

A 75 g (2 ½ ounce) serving of squid contains 0.4 g EPA and DHA and the same portion of octopus provides 0.1 g 8 . For comparison, 75 g (2½ ounces) of scallops, clams and oysters contain 0.2 g, 0.2 g and 1.0 g, respectively. Equivalent portions of farmed Atlantic salmon and canned chum salmon contain 1.6 g and 0.9 g EPA and DHA respectively.

Scientific studies show that the daily consumption of 0.5 g to 1.8 g of EPA and DHA combined would make it possible to benefit from the related benefits, even if the optimal amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to consume are not established with certainty 9 . A recently published article suggests that, for the general population, the daily consumption of 0.25 g of EPA and DHA combined is sufficient to reduce mortality from coronary heart disease 10 . For people already with coronary artery disease, the recommendation would be 1 g of EPA and DHA per day.

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

Excellent source Iron . The octopus is an excellent source of iron for men and a good source for women (the iron requirements of women being greater than those of men). As for the squid , it is a source of iron for humans only. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters .

Excellent source Copper . The squid and octopus are of excellent sources of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes , copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several enzymes containing copper also help the body’s defense against free radicals .

Excellent source Selenium . The squid and octopus are of excellent sources of selenium. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes , thus preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps convert thyroid hormones to their active form.

Excellent source Vitamin B2 . The squid is an excellent source of vitamin B2 for the woman and a good source for the man (the need for vitamin B2 man being higher than those of women). Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin . Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.

Octopus: plenty of vitamin B12
Octopus are an exceptional source of vitamin B12. Consuming 75 g (2 ½ oz.) Fills up to six times the recommended daily nutritional intake of this vitamin. For comparison, a 75 g portion of octopus contains 15 μg of vitamin B12, and the same portion of beef contains 2 μg to 3 μg. Vitamin B12 contained in animal products is very well absorbed by the body. Note that vegans, who do not consume any animal product, are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency.

Excellent source Vitamin B12 . The squid and octopus are of excellent sources of vitamin B12. This vitamin works in conjunction with vitamin B9 (folic acid) to make red blood cells in the blood. It also ensures the maintenance of nerve cells and cells that make bone tissue.

Good source Phosphorus . The squid and octopus are good sources of phosphorus (see our profile Awards nutrient phosphorus ). Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

Good source Zinc . The octopus is a good source of zinc for women and a source for men (the zinc requirements of men being greater than those of women). As for the squid , it is a source of zinc for women and men. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the production, storage and release of insulin.

Good source Vitamin B6 . The octopus is a good source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine , is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the manufacture of neurotransmitters . It also collaborates in the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it helps the good functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells.

Source Magnesium . The squid and octopus are sources of magnesium. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Source Potassium . The octopus is a source of potassium. In the body, potassium is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Source Vitamin B3 . The squid and octopus are sources of vitamin B3. Also called niacin , vitamin B3 participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also collaborates in the DNA formation process, allowing normal growth and development.

Source Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) . The squid and octopus are sources of vitamin B5. This vitamin is part of a key coenzyme allowing the body to adequately use the energy from ingested food. It is also involved in several stages of the production of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters .

Source Vitamin C . The octopus is a source of vitamin C for women only (the vitamin C needs of men being greater than those of women). The role that vitamin C plays in the body goes beyond its antioxidant properties. It also contributes to the health of bones, cartilage, teeth and gums. In addition, it protects against infections, promotes the absorption of iron from plants and accelerates healing.

Source Vitamin E . The squid and octopus are sources of vitamin E. Antioxidant major, vitamin E protects the membrane that surrounds the body cells, especially red blood cells and white blood cells (immune cells).

What is a “portion” of squid and octopus worth?
Weight Raw octopus, 75 g Raw squid, various species, 75 g
Calories 62 69
Protein 11.2g 11.7g
Carbohydrates 1.7g 2.3 g
Fat 0.8g 1.0 g
-saturated 0.2g 0.3 g
– monounsaturated 0.1g 0.1g
-polyunsaturated 0.2g 0.4 g
-Omega 3* 0.1g 0.4 g
Cholesterol 36 mg 175 mg
Dietary fiber 0.0 g 0.0 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2007.
* EPA, DHA and Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)

Squid: watch out for cholesterol!
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, squid is the mollusc with the highest amount of cholesterol, even ahead of the shrimp. In fact, a 75 g serving of squid contains 175 mg of cholesterol, which is roughly the equivalent of an average egg of 44 g (which provides 164 mg). As for shrimp, a 75 g serving contains about 140 mg of cholesterol. People with high cholesterol are advised to limit their total intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day. Thus, they must consume in moderation and in small quantities foods containing cholesterol, including squid. People with normal blood cholesterol levels should not limit their consumption of squid.

Fried squid
In North America, squid is often eaten floured and fried in oil. Obviously, this way of preparing it considerably reduces its nutritional value. According to the Canadian Nutrient File, fried squid contains five times more saturated fat than raw squid. It is therefore preferable not to consume it fried if you want to take full advantage of its nutritional richness.


Fish and seafood (crustaceans and molluscs) are among the nine most common food allergens in Canada. People allergic to seafood react abnormally to the proteins present there. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it is possible that a person suffering from an allergy to a given type of seafood (crustaceans or molluscs) is also allergic to other species belonging to the same group. For example, a person allergic to squid could also be allergic to octopus since they are both molluscs. On the other hand, a person allergic to a type of mollusk (for example squid) will not necessarily be allergic to other types of marine products (crustaceans or fish). However,11 , that is to say that their allergies are strongly associated.

People allergic to some of these foods are recommended to consult an allergist before consuming others that may be related to them. Finally, people allergic to dust mites have a high risk of squid allergy; cases of anaphylactic reactions have been reported in the scientific literature 12 .

Cephalopods over time

“Cephalopod” literally means “head to toe” or “head to toe” since, at first glance, the central body of these molluscs may seem non-existent.

“Squid” or “squid”, appeared at the end of XIII th  century. It comes from the Latin calamarius meaning “which contains the reed to write”, in reference to the blackish liquid (ink) that this animal spreads to defend itself. It is also called “squid” in reference to its inner shell which is horny.

“Octopus” appeared in 1546. It comes from the Greek polypos , which means “several feet”.

“Octopus” has replaced “octopus” in common usage. The word would have appeared in 1865 and would have been borrowed from the vocabulary of the fishermen of the Channel Island of Jersey; although others claim that it comes from the Latin polypus.

“Seiche” appeared at the end of the XII th  century. It comes from the Latin sepia. The word sepia is passed to French to designate the pigment of the same name, which was formerly drawn from the liquid secreted by the cuttlefish.

Squid, octopus and cuttlefish are part of the cephalopod class. All of these molluscs have eight or ten arms (or tentacles) with suction cups and a siphon to propel them. They can also spread an ink cloud allowing them to flee when they are in danger. They also have the ability to change the color, shape and texture of their bodies to hide their presence from their predators or prey.

Artist pigment, gourmet pigment
Called “black”, “ink” or “sepia”, the pigmented liquid that cephalopods spray to cloud water and escape in case of danger has long served painters. Today, it is greatly appreciated by gourmets, especially those from Italy and Japan. The former use it to bind and color sauces, polenta, pasta or rice. The latter color their udon and soba noodles , or some of their manju . These steamed cupcakes made with a red bean paste, normally wrapped in a sweet white dough, are then offered in a black version. Some daring Japanese chefs even make it an ice cream …

Cephalopods are the most advanced molluscs. Octopuses would rank second among marine animals in terms of their intelligence, immediately after the dolphins. They are present in all the seas of the globe – the coldest and the hottest – and at all depths. They have nourished human beings since ancient times. 786 living species are known, but there would have been infinitely more in the past.

Cephalopod stocks vary considerably from year to year depending on various factors, some of which are not well understood. Their short longevity (one year or less for most of them) and climatic phenomena like El Nino play a role in these fluctuations. Added to this is the current growth in global demand for these marine animals. Countries traditionally less inclined to consume them, for example the United States, are becoming more and more interested in them, although Japan and the European Union remain, by far, the largest consumers.

Attempts at industrial farming are carried out in various parts of the globe, but we have not yet mastered all the phases of the farming cycle. Thus, depending on the variation in stocks, the prices for these commodities fluctuate from year to year, while showing a certain increase since the early 2000s.

Culinary uses

Choose well

Octopus: arms should be firm to the touch. Most of the time, at least in Quebec, octopuses are rather offered frozen, so without their ink bag. Their weight ranges from 800 g to 1 kilo.

Squid: the body should be thick; the more it is, the better. When fresh, the flesh is translucent and firm to the touch. To test the freshness, we recommend touching the suction cups: you should feel a slight suction sensation on your finger. The arms should have a pearly appearance. In grocery stores, there are mostly frozen squid rings.

Cuttlefish: arms and body must have a pearly appearance and be firm to the touch. Fresh cuttlefish is rather rare. The frozen cuttlefish is easier to find, but it no longer contains its bag of ink.

Dried cuttlefish and squid are found in Asian grocery stores. Just put them to soak for an hour in water to rehydrate them.

You can get pasta with squid ink or squid in Italian or Asian grocery stores. As for the ink itself, it is rarer, but it can be found canned – sachet or jar – on the Internet and, possibly, in specialized shops.

Culinary dishes

There are many techniques for cleaning an octopus, a cuttlefish or a fresh squid. The easiest way is to ask the fishmonger to do it himself … If necessary, we can ask him to reserve the ink bag for us. Some prefer to keep the skin, others remove it. We will have to communicate our preferences to the fishmonger.

Preparation: the arms of small squid and cuttlefish are generally left whole or cut lengthwise, while the body can be cut into rings, unless you want to stuff it. The arms of medium-sized octopuses are left whole or cut into bite-size pieces.

Small squid and cuttlefish

Hard, hard, the flesh of the octopus
The techniques to soften the octopus are as numerous as eccentric: beat it against a rock or with a mallet, dip it alternately three times in boiling water and three times in cold water for 30 seconds each time, treat it with papain or bromelain, cook it with a cork. One of the most original methods is to pass it between the rollers of an old washing machine …
However, today, most cooks agree that freezing is the best way to tenderize it. It is recommended to put the fresh octopus in the freezer for six to eight days before preparing it, or to buy it frozen.
  • Asian style  : just immerse them for 30 seconds in boiling water. They can then be prepared to taste, either by serving them on rice, pasta or couscous, or in a salad with other seafood and a chopped fennel bulb.
  • Make the jump a few minutes in the wok with vegetables, such as onions, peppers or Chinese cabbage.
  • To grill them , it is recommended to make diagonal surface cuts in the flesh. Cooking will be faster and more regular.
  • Cut them into pieces that you will roll in the flour and fry at high frying until they are golden. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve immediately, for example on a bed of arugula or a coleslaw seasoned with fresh coriander.
  • Serve them as a garnish on a homemade pizza , with other seafood.
  • Decorate a soup with Swiss chard (or spinach) and green onions. It will take about 450 g of green onions, which will be browned in butter until they are tender. Add ¼ cup flour and about 1.5 liters (6 cups) of chicken or vegetable broth; stir well to avoid lumps. Season with salt and pepper, cook for 50 minutes then pass through a blender. Brown 225 g squid pieces for 1 minute with a large bunch of chard leaves (or spinach) and 225 g green peas; reduce heat, cook 6 or 7 minutes, then add to green onion soup. Serve with bread croutons.
  • Cuttlefish and squid can be served as sushi or sashimi ; it is important that they are as fresh as possible, like any seafood served raw.

Medium or large squid and cuttlefish

  • Clean them and cut the body into thin rings and the arms into two pieces. Sauté a celery stalk and a minced onion in olive oil. Add chopped chard leaves, cook for 5 minutes, then add chopped tomatoes and cuttlefish pieces. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. A quick and original main dish .
  • Stuffed  squid: chop the arms of the squid and mix this mince with chopped anchovies, garlic, parsley and diced tomatoes. Stuff the body with this mixture and close it with toothpicks. Put the squid in an oiled gratin dish. Moisten white wine with a little olive oil, and bake for about 45 minutes in an oven set to 180 ° C (350 ° F). Season with chopped fresh parsley and serve.
  • Stuff the squid with a mixture of tuna, capers, garlic , which you will season with oregano (preferably Greek) and tabasco. Coat the stuffed squid with olive oil and cook for about 12 minutes on the barbecue.

Little octopuses

  • Cook them whole in a fish stock for half an hour, after browning them in olive oil with garlic. Add tomato coulis and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Serve over polenta or rice.
  • They can also be cooked in water and served as a salad .

Medium or large octopuses

  • Leave to thaw, separate the body from the arms and cook all the pieces over low heat in a stock or broth flavored with thyme, bay leaf, etc. The broth may include red or white wine , the ink of the beast and peeled and seeded tomatoes . It takes at least an hour and a half to cook, more if the animal is big enough. To make sure it is well cooked, prick the flesh with a fork: it should penetrate without resistance.
  • In Crete , we add green olives and fennel leaves at the end of cooking.
  • You can also put the octopus pieces in cold water and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and cook for 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of the animal. Skim the surface of the water. Once cooked, you can cut it while it is still hot in 2 cm wide slices and season with parsley, garlic and lemon juice . Add pepper, let cool and serve. As simple as that.

Cuttlefish ink pasta

  • Cook them al dente like any other pasta and serve them with seafood in a tomato or herb sauce, or simply with garlic, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.


Octopus, squid, fresh cuttlefish  : ideally, they should be eaten on the day of purchase. Otherwise, keep them for a day or two in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.

Ecology and environment

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, and the Blue Ocean Institute, both of which study fluctuations in populations of fish and other marine organisms, cephalopods are relatively unlikely to go extinct. They develop quickly and reproduce at a young age. Even in the event of overfishing, populations are rapidly reforming. In addition, their fishing results in relatively little bycatch compared to that of shrimp, for example.

However, these animals are sensitive to climatic phenomena such as El Nino. They can disappear almost completely from a marine area for a few years, as happened in the waters bordering Morocco at the turn of this millennium. It is also possible that, with the increasing world demand for these marine animals, we are witnessing a marked decrease in the most fished species. Experts are also studying the effects that such a decrease could have on the balance of aquatic life if it were to extend to other species, the cephalopods playing a very important role in it both as prey and as predator.

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